COLLEGE of St. Benilde took advantage of Letran’s depleted frontline to roll past the Knights, 77-60, on Monday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Joel Tolentino tallied 17 points, seven rebounds and three assists to pace the Blazers, who improved to 2-2 and dealt the Knights their third loss in four starts.
The Knights played without their top two big men in Raymond Almazan (fever) and Jam Cortes (suspension).
“It’s a very important win for us,” Blazers coach Richard del Rosario said. “It put our heads above water.”
As expected, the Blazers ruled the boards against the vulnerable Knights, 49-34.
The Blazers were coming off a loss against another undermanned team in Mapua, which survived despite playing without four key rookies.
“We don't want to commit the same mistake,” Del Rosario admitted.
It was actually the Blazers’ small lineup that stood out in the victory.
With starting frontliners Roberto Bartolo and JR Ongteco both fouling out early in the fourth, the Blazers were forced to go small with a pair of 6-foot-2 swingmen in Mark Romero and Paolo Taha taking their places.
The ploy worked as the Blazers outscored the Knights, 21-10, in the fourth, with the undersized duo delivering big men-type numbers.
Romero finished with 13 points and seven boards, while Taha had 10 and nine rebounds.
Carlo Lastimosa contributed 10 markers, including the dunk that served as the game’s exclamation point for the Blazers.
Kevin Alas scored 11 points in the first half for the Knights, who were still ahead, 40-35, at that time. But the star swingman was held scoreless in the second half.
Kevin Racal led Letran with 18 points, hitting all his 10 charities, and eight rebounds.
ST. BENILDE (77) -- Tolentino 17, Romero 13, Taha 10, Lastimosa 10, Grey 9, Bartolo 7, Sinco 5, Ongteco 4, Tan 2, Deles 0, Maconocido 0
LETRAN (60) -- Racal 18, Cruz 13, Alas Ke. 11, Belorio 6, Olotu 5, Lituania 4, Alas Kr. 2, Cudal 1, Pantin 0, Luib 0, Almario 0
Quarter scores: 17-23, 35-40, 56-50, 77-60